Now, these things being considered, the faithful should know how many prelates, clergy and laity are excommunicated of God; for all who depart from the Lord’s commandments are excommunicated, and also how many excommunicate themselves when they put excommunication on others, or publish it.
An act, in order to be virtuous, must be justified by eight circumstances, which are set forth in this line:
Who, what, where, how much, how many, why, in what manner, when.
Hence, it is, that no obedience made to a superior profits for merit except in so far as it leans towards obedience of the counsels and commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is clear, for obedience to Christ, owed or performed, is in and by itself a reason of merit which increases or diminishes with the degree of obedience or disobedience. Hence nothing is more religious than obedience unto God.
We are not bound to follow any apostle, except in so far as he follows Jesus Christ, so it is evident by the limitation laid down by the apostle that we are bound to obey no prelate who has lived since the apostles, except as he commands or counsels Christ’s counsels or commands.
Just as, therefore, a true Christian is one who follows Christ in his life, so a truly apostolic man is the priest who follows the teaching of the apostles, living the life of an apostle and teaching his doctrine. Hence, any pope is to be called apostolic so far as he teaches the doctrine of the apostles and follows them in works. But, if he puts the teaching of the apostles aside, teaching in word or works what is contrary, then he is properly called pseudo-apostolic or an apostate.
Up to this point it is to be noted that human obedience is threefold — spiritual, secular and ecclesiastical — spiritual, which is due purely according to God’s law, and under this kind of obedience Christ and the apostles lived and each Christian should live. Secular obedience is obedience due according to the secular code. Ecclesiastical obedience is obedience according to the regulations of the priests of the church aside from the express authority of Scripture.
Further, the aforementioned doctors lay down that certain of the Bohemian clergy, leaning too little on the pope and the college of cardinals, do not want to agree to this, wishing to have holy Scripture for the only judge in such matters, which Scripture they interpret and wish to have interpreted according to their own heads, not caring for the interpretation accepted by the community of wise men in the church nor…
It should be evangelical wisdom that all priests are consecrated and guided directly by the one and only pontiff, our Lord Jesus Christ. For this was so at the time of the apostles, when the church grew, and this statement accords with Scripture. Therefore, God is able to bring his church back to its pristine state by taking away the government from the pope and cardinals. And so it stands that others besides these may be vicars of the apostles.
I maintain that it is the office of the Church to teach but that it is her duty to do so, not by making assertion merely, but by offering proofs and, again, that while it is the duty of the individual Christian to receive with deference the teaching of the Church, it is his duty also not listlessly to acquiesce in her statements but to satisfy himself of the validity of her proofs.
The question is, therefore, whether God hates error so very much more than He hates sin, that He has taken precautions against the entrance of the one which He has not seen fit to use in order to guard against the other. We hold that what He has done in both cases is strikingly parallel. First, His great gift to His people, that of the Holy Spirit, is equally their safeguard against sin and against error. He is equally the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Holiness. It is His office to inform our understanding, by taking of the things of Christ and showing them to us and to direct our wills, and make them conformed to that of Christ.
I have already expressed my opinion that if you concede Milner his axioms, and then try to take your stand on the Bible as a guide which satisfies the conditions which these axioms impose, you will certainly be defeated. But, in real truth, Milner might have spared himself the trouble of writing the rest of his book, when he begins by taking for granted that God has provided us with an infallible guide, or, to use his own words, with ‘a never failing rule, which is never liable to lead a sincere inquirer into error of any kind.’ Observe the monstrous character of the claim. We are to be supernaturally guarded not merely against deadly error, but against error of any kind.
I am not in the least ashamed of the object aimed at in the Roman Catholic controversy. I believe that the Church of Rome teaches false doctrine on many points which must be called important, if anything in religion can be called important; and it is not merely that on some particular points the teaching of that Church is erroneous, but they who submit to her are obliged to surrender their understanding to her, and submit to be led blindfold they know not whither. I count it, then, a very good work to release a man from Roman bondage – a release of which I think he will be the better, both as regards the things of eternity and those of time.